December 31st/ 3:30 pm Eastern Memphis, TN- Liberty Bowl
Georgia Bulldogs (6-6/ SEC) vs. Central Florida Golden Knights
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These teams couldn’t have had more different seasons. One team had a dream season and captured a conference championship while the other struggled to .500 and saw its coach fall to the hot seat because of it.
Georgia went 6-6 in 2010 and continued their struggles since Matthew Stafford departed for the NFL. The Bulldogs stumbled out of the game, going just 1-4. Some of the losses can be contributed to playing without star WR AJ Green, who missed Georgia’s first four games. After the 1-4 start, the Bulldogs battled back by winning five of their last seven games to gain bowl eligibility – something that wasn’t a certainty in early October. Georgia’s only loss after their trip to Boulder was in overtime to Florida and to #1 Auburn.
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Central Florida, just two years removed from a 4-8 season, won ten games and captured the Conference USA Title by beating SMU 17-7. George O’Leary has done a masterful job with the Knights and they are headed to a bowl game for the second straight season. Central Florida is hoping they fare better against Georgia than they did last season in the St. Petersburg Bowl against Rutgers.
- Georgia: If you watched Georgia play this season, you saw how much better they are with WR AJ Green. Green is probably the best wide receiver in college football and this is likely his last game in college before he cashes in a huge NFL paycheck in April. Central Florida has given up over 200 yards per game through the air this season and they haven’t faced a WR near the talent level of Green. He can singlehandedly change games with big plays. He’s virtually uncoverable regardless of who draws the task of defending him. Look for him to have a big game in his last appearance in a Bulldog uniform..
- UCF: Central Florida’s offense is led by their top 25 nationally ranked rushing offense. The Knights boast three guys that have rushed for over 500 yards this season and they are highlighted by RB Ronnie Weaver. Weaver led Central Florida in rushing with 890 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Weaver had 4 100+ yard rushing games this season highlighted by a 180-yard performance against East Carolina..
KEY POSITIONAL BATTLE
I’m intrigued to see how Georgia’s run defense does against Central Florida’s run offense. The Knights on average gain 192 yards per game on the ground and Georgia gives up an average of 150 yards per game. The Bulldogs rank just 60th in run defense and will need to slow down the Knights’ ground attack if they want to win the Liberty Bowl. Running the football is UCF’s bread-and-butter and if they are unable to get their ground game going, then I don’t see them having a shot in this game, but if they are able to rack up the yardage on the ground, then they have great shot at getting their eleventh win.
TALE OF THE TAPE
The big play. Both Georgia and Central Florida are capable of making big plays, but both defenses are capable of giving up big plays. Georgia has given up 152 plays of over ten yards and Central Florida has given up 150. Whichever team is able to hit on a couple of big plays in this game has a great shot at winning. I think Georgia is more capable of doing so through the air with Aaron Murray throwing the deep ball to AJ Green. Georgia should be able to prevent Central Florida from big plays as long as they don’t allow one of their backs to burst through the line for a big gain.
I have to think that Georgia will be focused in this game, even though it’s not a prestigious bowl game. Mark Richt’s job security is at an all-time low and a loss would knock them below .500 for the season and it could be the final straw for Georgia’s AD. Central Florida has a strong run defense, but I don’t think their passing defense will be able to contain AJ Green, Kris Durham, Tavarres King and others and I believe Aaron Murray will have a big day through the air to lead Georgia to a victory in the Liberty Bowl.
PREDICTION: Georgia 28, UCF 23